Interview with Richards & Spence Architects | Yellowtrace

 

Operating in their home town of Brisbane, Adrian Spence and Ingrid Richards co-founded Richards & Spence in 2008 with the aim of choreographing vibrant public spaces from private commissions. A small architectural practice of 7 people, Richards & Spence projects are broad in type, ranging from bespoke furniture commissions, houses and restaurants to larger scale retail, commercial, multi residential and mixed use developments, with a focus on urban infill retail projects.

The studio has authored a number of significant retail developments throughout the city, including the recent Brisbane International Airport Retail refurbishment, the development of Burnett Lane in the CBD and the proposed regeneration of the Historic Boggo Road Gaol site. The practice has been critical in the ongoing development of the James Street Precinct, including the 19 James Street Development and most recently, the West Elm retail development at 19 Wandoo Street. The ideas relating to architectural form and planning, which have been key to the success of the precinct, are developed further in the new 178 room James Street Hotel, retail and lifestyle development, scheduled to commence construction this year.

Richards & Spence were featured as an emerging practice at the 2011 National Architecture Conference and were invited speakers at the Australia & New Zealand Student Architecture Congress, Newcastle, 2013. In 2015 they were invited as delegates to the Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Portugal, Lisbon, contributing to the retail discussion panel.

Yes, these guys are dead-set legends, and it’s a real pleasure to celebrate their many achievements today. Let’s make some noise for Adrian & Ingrid!

 

Milne Street by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

Milne Street by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
Milne Street Residence by Richards & Spence. Photography by Alicia Taylor.

 

+ Hi guys, welcome to Yellowtrace and thank you for taking the time to e-chat. Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourself? And when did you decide it was time to start your business?

Operating in our home town of Brisbane, the decision to start a practice together was wrapped up in the decision to stay living here. We looked for projects that we would have access to once they were complete and the most direct way for us as an emerging practice to effect the public realm was to work in retail.

 

19 James Sreet by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

19 James Sreet by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

19 James Sreet by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

19 James Sreet by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
19 James Sreet by Richards & Spence. Photography by Alicia Taylor + Toby Scott.

 

+ What is your main priority when starting projects? Is there something that is fundamental to your practice – your philosophy and your process?

We seek out projects that have the potential for a civic component. This un-briefed civility might manifest as a small contribution to the street, like a shop window sill deep enough to take a rest. Or it could be a covered short-cut between two streets or shady courtyard in the left over space between buildings. In our opinion, it is the circumstantial social interaction of our daily routine that makes a community. Our work attempts to enable this kind of civic interaction.

 

Wandoo Street by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

Wandoo Street by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
Wandoo Street, West Elm by Richards & Spence. Photography by Toby Scott.

 

+ How is your studio structured? i.e. How many of you work in the studio, what types of skills do you have in-house, is there anything you are outsourcing, and how many projects do you handle at any one time?

We are a studio of seven people – three registered architects (two directors and our new associate architect Tahnee Sullivan), three graduates and a student. The number of projects ranges widely due to their scale. Currently we are working on a 178 room hotel and a series of smaller projects including a football clubhouse and some small commercial buildings, tenancy fitouts, and four houses (including our own).

The now compulsory 3D renders are produced in house. Historically we laboured over balsa models which were quickly superseded, but recently we have begun outsourcing 3D printed models.

 

Blonde Venus by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

Blonde Venus by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

Blonde Venus by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

Blonde Venus by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
Blonde Venus retail store in Brisbane by Richards & Spence. Photography by Toby Scott.

 

+ How do you organise and manage the competing demands of modern business and life? Do you have any tip or tricks you could share with us that help you in your day to day (i.e. software, online tools, shortcuts, task management, cheat sheets, advisors, anything!)

You have to book a meeting with life balance. We work hard during the week, making time for life outside of the office, until Friday afternoon when we enjoy a now ritual late lunch together.

 

Brickworks Design Studio by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

Brickworks Design Studio by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
Brickworks Design Studio by Richards & Spence. Photography by Toby Scott.

 

+ What do you feel is the most challenging part of being an architect today? And if you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

On a world scale, Brisbane is still a minor city with a small population.

In a commercial reality population ultimately drives the building quality. Turnover determines rents, which determines feasibility, which determines budget, which determines building quality.

We have to be careful not to be shortsighted about our rapid growth and plan for a long term outcome in our built structures.

+ What are some of your methods to staying motivated, focused and expressive? And your top source of inspiration and reference are drawn to regularly – i.e. books, magazines, websites/ blogs etc?

Travel is the ultimate inspiration. We travel often and always return reinvigorated.

 

Donna Bionda by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

Donna Bionda by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

Donna Bionda by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
Donna Bionda by Richards & Spence. Photography by Toby Scott.

 

+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other architects, peers and creatives in general do you admire?

We have many smart and creative friends in fields including art, fashion, film and architecture. Of course we have our favourite architects for inspiration (Moretti, Bofill, Kahn) but we also find inspiration in buildings with unknown authors.

+ What advice would you give to emerging architects who want to follow your path? What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practice?

Don’t be in a rush. Architecture is a long endeavor and can’t be mastered quickly.

Take the time to learn from people who have had the benefit of experience. We learn more with every project and each project is a prototype for the next.

 

The Survey Co by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

The Survey Co by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

The Survey Co by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

The Survey Co by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
The Survey Co by Richards & Spence. Photography by Alicia Taylor.

 

+ What would be your dream creative project or a collaboration?

A place of worship.

+ What’s next – can you share with us your vision?

We believe that the collective consciousness of a city resides in the continuity of its built environment. If Brisbane is to ‘grow up’ we cannot keep demolishing our buildings and starting from scratch each time. The instant precinct lacks charm. In an urban context, the thread of past occupation gives character and delight.

 

The Standard Market Co by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

The Standard Market Co by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
The Standard Market Co by Richards & Spence. Photography by Toby Scott.

 

Let’s Get Real:

+ What’s the best mistake you have ever made?

AS: Staying in Brisbane.
IR: Starting an architectural practice in 2008, just before the GFC.

+ What rules do you live by?

AS: The better you look the more you see.
IR: Only hire emotionally functional people (there is no place in architecture for those who do not feel compassion and remorse).

 

Riparian Daybed Desk by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace

Riparian Daybed Desk by Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
Riparian Daybed & Desk by Richards & Spence

 

+ Your most treasured belonging?

AS: My grandfather’s watch.
IR: We have a number of irreplaceable paintings and charcoals by our friend Michael Zavros.

+ What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

AS: My power animal is an echidna.
IR: I am somewhat claustrophobic and prefer two exits out of rooms.

+ It’s not very cool, but I really like…

AS: Whitney Houston.
IR: Science fiction movies.

 

Interview: Richards & Spence | Yellowtrace
Team Richards & Spence. What a top shot!

 


[Images courtesy of Richards & Spence. Photography credits noted.]

 

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2 Responses

  1. PJ

    The irony is of course, that they demolished a house to build their home, but in the process then removed heritage overlay for other houses on the street. ‘If Brisbane is to ‘grow up’ we cannot keep demolishing our buildings and starting from scratch each time.”, indeed.

    Reply

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